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Democracy Requires Witnesses: #AltoArizona #SB1070

July 30, 2010

Image from PuenteAZ Flickr photostream

via Paromita Shah, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild & Andrea Black, Detention Watch Network

Yesterday, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department arrested Sunita Patel, from the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Roxana Orrell, Treasurer of the National Lawyers Guild, while they were serving as legal observers at a demonstration in Phoenix, AZ to protest the new SB1070 law. A time-honored tradition since the civil rights era, legal observers serve as impartial witnesses who help ensure that law enforcement officials do not infringe upon the rights of demonstrators and activists who engage in civil disobedience.

Sunita and Roxana flew in to join the legal action team supporting the incredible efforts of Puente, Somos America, members of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, and others protesting SB 1070. Not only unconstitutional, SB 1070 is an immoral and unjust law – a law that will essentially legalize racially profiling and devastate Arizona’s diverse communities.

The arrests of Sunita and Roxana, in their role as legal observers, are yet another in the long list of abuses committed by the Sheriff’s department. This show of force to quash demonstrators’ and observers’ constitutionally protected rights, is not an aberration in Arizona, but the reality.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the proponents of SB1070 have fed off the climate of fear and hatred for too long. A strong democracy requires witnesses for those who brave the wrath of police in opposing unjust laws. As 17 states prepare to enact copycat legislation, we must all bear witness and follow the example of those who speak out for justice.

[Sunita Patel a member of Detention Watch Network and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild; Roxana Orrell is treasurer of the National Lawyers Guild.]

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